The FINANCIAL — Sir Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), has visited Gaziantep in the south-east of Turkey, one of the regions most affected by the refugee crisis, to assess on the ground how the Bank can respond to the needs of refugee-hosting communities.
The visit was part of President Chakrabarti’s three-day stay in Turkey, the Bank’s top investment destination, from 16 to 18 February. The trip also includes meetings with the government in Ankara and Sir Suma’s participation at the FT-EBRD Central Asia Investment Forum in Istanbul alongside Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, according to EBRD.
In Gaziantep, where the EBRD has had an office since 2014, the President met mayor Fatma Șahin to discuss the challenges posed to local labour markets, social cohesion and public services by the continuous inflow of refugees. Currently, refugees account for about 17 per cent of the 1.5 million-strong population of the city.
Sir Suma also met with the President of Gaziantep’s Chamber of Commerce, Eyüp Bartık, to discuss the role of the private sector in delivering investments that secure lasting and sustainable results for both refugees and their hosts.
Later, he discussed the role that private sector schools could play in helping to educate and integrate children from Syria, in a meeting with Gökhan Gündoğdu, the owner and CEO of the privately run Gündoğdu Colleges based in Adana, another major city in south-eastern Turkey.
In addition, President Chakrabarti visited a municipal vocational training centre in Gaziantep and a similar educational facility within the Islahiye refugee camp, some 90 km west of Gaziantep, where he discussed the prospects for refugees to participate in the labour force.
Sir Suma welcomed the Turkish authorities’ decision to issue work permits to refugees, helping to fend off the expansion of a damaging shadow economy.
He said: “It is crucial to create economic opportunities for refugees and the host population and to make the host economies more robust and resilient in the longer term.”
“Working closely with the authorities, the private sector and donors, the EBRD will apply its tried and tested financial instruments to further strengthen the Turkish economy and help it cope with current challenges.”
On 3 February the EBRD announced a plan in response to the refugee crisis to finance up to €500 million of new transactions in refugee-hosting countries, subject to mobilising an additional €400 million in grants from donors.
In Turkey, the Bank is developing a pipeline of projects including financing for small and medium-sized enterprises and investments in municipal services. It is also supporting policies to help promote an environment where refugees can make an active and positive contribution to local economies.
The EBRD is an important investor in Turkey, with €1.9 billion invested in 2015 alone.
The Bank operates from offices in Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep and to date has invested over €7 billion through 180 projects in infrastructure, energy, agribusiness, industry and finance. It has also mobilised about €16 billion for these ventures from other sources of financing.